Radio Faux Show Volume 1, Number 17 (June 27, 2021): Saxophones

Radio Faux Show Volume 1, Number 17 (June 27, 2021): Saxophones

This Week’s Theme: Saxophones

This week’s Faux Show is a Super-Theme and every song features saxophones. The songs selected cover a wide range of saxophone use across many decades. As usual, the songs are presented in mini-themes when possible. The songs selected are not meant to represent the history of saxophones throughout the last one hundred years. Instead, I attempted to select songs that showcase the saxophone as a primary instrument.

Welcome to Radio Faux Show number seventeen.

First things first – click a link to start listening and then come back to read about this week’s songs.


Amazon Music

Why Saxophones?

Over the last thirty years of popular music, the saxophone has been systematically removed from recordings and replaced with a variety of synthesized instruments and sounds, as well as by the use of guitars and keyboards as the main soloing instrument. The only genres of music still using saxophones widely today are jazz and other horn-based styles of music, but there was a time when all R&B, rock, pop, and vocal groups used saxophones as a primary instrument. As recently as the ’80s, saxophone solos were prevalent on the radio and in concert. I am no expert, but it seems that the shift of popular music toward alternative rock, rap, and electronic dance music in the ’90s, followed by the last twenty years of production-based pop stars has caused this loss of the saxophone across many genres. This is not to say that the quality of popular music has suffered by this shift away from the instrument, but there is no replacement for the power and beauty of the saxophone.

Some R&B and Rock and Roll History

Here is a quick tour of some songs commonly referenced as the first R&B and Rock and Roll songs.

Count Basie “One O’Clock Jump” (1937): Count Basie was an R&B innovator. He is normally classified as a Jazz artist, but songs such as this one are the precursors to R&B and Rock and Roll. His orchestra used plenty of saxophone and the sound wouldn’t work without them.

“One O’Clock Jump”

Louis Jordan “Five Guys Named Moe” (1943): In my opinion, Louis Jordan is the first true R&B artist. He didn’t invent the style, but he was the first to truly understand how to combine jazz and blues into the style that evolved from his first recordings of the early ’40s into rock and roll in the ’50s. Louis Jordan played the saxophone.

OMG – live in ’43!

Wynonie Harris “Good Rockin’ Tonight” (1948): This is one of the original jump blues classics that led directly to the music of Elvis Presley. This song kicks off with one of the most recognizable saxophone riffs in the history of rock and roll.

“Good Rockin’ Tonight”

Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats “Rocket ’88” (1951): This song is often referenced as the first rock and roll record. It is important for its use of distorted electric guitar, but throughout the song is a driving saxophone laying down the main riff.

“Rocket ’88”

Some Jazz History

It is impossible to separate the evolution of jazz in the early 20th century from the increasing popularity of the saxophone in jazz during the ’20s and ’30s. I would assume that if you polled people at random and asked them to name jazz instruments, they would say drums, piano, trumpet, and saxophone more than any other instruments. Here are some high-water marks of saxophone use in jazz.

W.C. Handy was a ragtime bandleader whose music laid the foundation for the jazz of the ’20s. His most famous composition is “St. Louis Blues,” which used several horns including saxophone.

“St. Louis Blues” (1914)

Fletcher Henderson’s band further advanced the use of saxophone in jazz, especially due to the playing of sax pioneer Coleman Hawkins.

“Money Blues” (1925)

Jazz took a giant leap forward with the music of Duke Ellington and Count Basie in the ’30s. The sax playing of Lester Young with the Count Basie Orchestra laid the foundation for the next phase of saxophone playing in the ’40s.

“Lester Leaps In” (1939)

Saxophonist Charlie Parker invented bebop in the ’40s and influenced all jazz to come after.

“Yardbird Suite” (1946)

By the 1950’s, the influence of Charlie Parker had led to an explosion of influential sax players throughout jazz. Of all of them, my favorite is Sonny Rollins.

“Blue 7” (1956)

Arguably, the most influential saxophonist was John Coltrane. He was not only a master of bebop and hard bop early in his career, but his influence on modal jazz and free jazz is still heard in much 21st century jazz. His groundbreaking work from 1962 until his death in 1967 sounds as fresh today as it did over fifty years ago.

The Quartet, live in 1963

Theme Highlights

One of the first artists to be recorded on saxophone was Rudy Wiedoeft. During the 1910s, he recorded several hundred songs for different labels and these recordings helped spread the popularity of the saxophone worldwide.

“Yakety Sax” was the theme song to The Benny Hill Show.

Some Benny Hill for those who like this kind of silliness

The new Pharoah Sanders album with producer Floating Points is on my list for Album of the Year. It is a meditative masterpiece that focuses all 46 minutes on a repetitive riff with alternating ebbs and flows that include electronic music, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the always beautiful sax artistry of Pharoah Sanders.

While recording their album, 4, Foreigner wanted to find someone who could lay down a sax solo like the legendary Junior Walker. When they realized that Walker was performing in town, they asked him to come in and he laid down one of the most recognizable rock and roll sax solos ever recorded.

Bobby Keys was one of the most important rock and roll sax players from the age of thirteen in 1956 until his death in 2014 at the age of seventy. He was born in Lubbock, TX and toured with local legend Buddy Holly in the late ’50s. He recorded hundreds of songs with dozens of artists, but his most important role was as the sax player for the Rolling Stones from 1969 into the 21st century. He became great friends with Keith Richards after they met in 1964 and began recording with The Stones on Let It Bleed. Keys later became great friends with Mick Jagger, for whom he served as best man at Jaggers’ wedding, before blowing an entire tour’s salary on a bathtub full of champagne and drawing the ire of Jagger. Bobby Keys somehow lived (and survived) the ultimate rock and roll life even though he was never an official member of any famous bands.

Keys’ most famous solo

Roland Kirk is one of my favorite jazz artists. He progressed from performing fairly straight-forward jazz in the ’50s to becoming one of the most influential leaders of avante-garde jazz in the ’60s and ’70s. He often played multiple horns at once. He was a master of circular breathing which allowed him to play extended notes for several minutes. This video provides a complete Roland Kirk show, live in ’72 when he was at the peak of his experimental powers. The entire concert is great, but you can jump to around one hour to see him play multiple horns and a cymbal at the same time, followed by about 7 minutes of circular breathing mastery. There is also an iconic multi-horn solo from minutes 18 to 24.

Live in ’72

Artist of the Week: Clarence Clemons

Danny Federici (organ), Gary Tallent (bass), and Clarence Clemons (saxophone) are the only members of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band to appear on all of the Boss’ records from his debut, Greetings from Asbury Park, through Born in the U.S.A, but everyone would agree that Clemons was the most important member of the band. The addition of Clemons to the band in 1972 was instrumental in turning a really good band into the greatest rock and roll band of the 70s. The story of how Springsteen and Clemons (aka The Big Man) met evolved through stories told over decades of live shows, so it is a little boring to just say that Springsteen and Clemons knew each other from other bands and finally got together. I prefer to believe that The Big Man walked into a club out of the fog, his silhouette slowly becoming a clear figure of a giant wielding a saxophone, leaped up onto the stage, and blew out a thunderous sax solo that shook the walls and exploded into the future of rock and roll.

The Big Man died ten years ago. Springsteen has moved on over the last decade, producing more quality albums and starring in a wonderful one-man Broadway show, but the beauty and power of The Big Man’s saxophone still stands out on every listen of Springsteen’s classic songs. The magic moment when two artists come together to change the sound of rock and roll are rare, and Springsteen/Clemons are on the short list that includes partnerships such as Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, and Page/Plant.

Possibly the greatest rock and roll saxophone performance ever recorded, Clemons’ playing on Springsteen’s 7 minute anthem “Rosalita” in 1973 is a continuous layer of riff after riff along with several solos; this is a live version
Clemon’s solo on “Jungleland” is his most shining moment in a career filled with great moments; this is a live version
Clemons tells the true story of how he met Springsteen

Sax in the ’70s

David Bowie “Young Americans”: David Sanborn’s classic sax riff on this song is instantly recognizable. Sanborn is best known for his smooth jazz work, but in the ’70s he was an extremely prolific sax player for all of the decade’s great artists. My strongest memory of Sanborn was when he used to sit in with Paul Shaffer’s band on Friday nights during the classic ’80s Late Night with David Letterman shows and when he co-hosted the music show Night Music with Jools Holland in 1988-89. Night Music was an incredible show which showcased several artists throughout the episode and then a final song with all performing together.

In this episode you can see Sonny Rollins perform with Leonard Cohen. WTF!?!
RESPECT Paul Shaffer’s Late Night band with David Sanborn

Tower of Power “Soul Vaccination”: This great tune from Tower of Power’s third album features the saxophone trio of Emilio Castillo, Doc Kupka, Lenny Pickett.

Saxophones like this are hip

Gerry Rafferty “Baker Street”: Arguably the most recognizable sax intro in pop music history, this song peaked at #2 in 1978 and hasn’t stopped playing on the radio since.

Before he went solo, Gerry Rafferty formed the band Stealers Wheel with his friend Joe Egan.

This original video of “Stuck in the Middle with You” isn’t violent like Pulp Fiction, but it is really weird.

Let’s Take A Trip Around The World (Sax Style)


Fela Kuti “Zombie”: This is the most infamous song by Fela Kuti.


Manu Dibango “Hot Chicken”: Dibango’s most well known song is “Soul Makossa.” Go ask Michael Jackson if you don’t believe me. “Hot Chicken” is pretty good too.

“Soul Makossa” live in ’72


Stan Getz (with Antonio Carlos Jobim) “Desafinado”: After spending fifteen years to become arguably the most popular and praised saxophonist in jazz, Getz recorded a bossa nova album in 1962 called Samba Jazz. This record started the US bossa nova craze, introduced the world to Antonio Carlos Jobim, and earned Getz a Grammy for best jazz performance on this song, composed by Jobim. This success was followed by one of the greatest albums ever recorded, jazz or otherwise, with Getz/Gilberto in 1963.

“Girl From Ipanema” live in ’64

Faux Jr. Recommends

Faux Jr. is a big fan of saxophones in music, so I had him select three examples, old and new.

Steely Dan “Aja”: The title track to the band’s seventh album is about as jazz as pop music can get. The album includes performances by several amazing musicians, but the most impressive of them all is Wayne Shorter.

Wayne Shorter has been described as the greatest living jazz composer and improviser. He began his career as the composer for Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He then worked with Miles Davis before co-founding the influential fusion group Weather Report. His solo on “Aja” is perfect.

Black Country, New Road “Instrumental”: This is the first track on the band’s debut 2021 album. They are part of a new school of music that includes Black Midi, and they create a mix of prog rock, jazz, math rock, and other genres.

This song features overlaid saxophones with keyboards that settle into a nice groove, and then burst out with klezmer-influenced sax solos.

Todd Rundgren “Zen Archer”: Taken from Rundgren’s classic A Wizard/A True Star, this song features a fantastic sax solo at its conclusion. The entire album includes sax by both David Sanborn and Michael Brecker, two of the best session players of the 70s.

I Want My MTV

Wham! “Careless Whisper”: Wham! were an English pop duo formed by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. Although their first album failed to produce any Top 40 hits in the US, their second album, Make It Big, was a # 1 smash and their first three US hits all went to # 1. “Careless Whisper” is the second of those three songs, and features a classic saxophone riff by Steve Gregory.

Wham’s first hit; everyone from the MTV generation remembers those shirts designed by Katherine Hamnett

Haircut 100 “Love Plus One”: Haircut 100 were a one-hit wonder, but anyone who likes that early ’80s sound should check out their 1982 debut, Pelican West. All of their songs feature sax riffs by band-member Phil Smith.

Both this video and the video for “Love Plus One” were obviously shot at the same time on the same set with the same extras – classic low-budget videos from just before labels realized how important a well-done video can be.

Men at Work “Who Can It Be Now?”: Band-member Greg Ham’s sax intro on this song is one of the quintessential sounds of early MTV. Although their career imploded within a few years, Men At Work did something no other band of the early ’80s did – they were popular with everyone. They sold tens of millions of records, they received rave reviews from critics, they ruled MTV, they were popular world-wide, and they won Grammies and other international awards. It is possible that they could have created more great music if they had stayed together, but the songs they produced on their first two albums are enough to keep their fans happy even decades later.

It all started with this ode to paranoia
The unofficial national anthem of Australia
My personal favorite Men At Work song; the song’s perfect mix of pop music with adult contemporary themes has kept it relevant for forty years

Unsung Heroes of Rock and Roll

Ruth Brown “5-10-15 Hours”: Ruth Brown was The Queen of R&B. She recorded a string of R&B and Pop hits throughout the ’50s and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She will most likely receive more attention in a future Faux Show.

Willis “Gator” Jackson was the sax player for Brown on most of her early ’50s singles. They also had a romantic relationship which was publicly presented as a marriage. In truth, they weren’t married, but their co-habitation was not socially acceptable, so Atlantic Records presented them as a married couple. It turns out that Jackson was already married, which ended the couple’s romance when Brown found out, but they still continued to record throughout the early ’50s. Even after Brown gave birth to a son that was fathered by fellow R&B legend Clyde McPhatter, Jackson helped raise the son as his own while they were still performing together.

Willis Jackson went on to have a successful solo career as a jazz musician who released dozens of R&B-based jazz records. His solo on “5-10-15 Hours,” an answer to the R&B classic “Sixty Minute Man,” is a prime example of his sound.

Willis Jackson live in ’56

Louis Prima “Oh, Marie”: Trumpeter Louis Prima was a big band leader for almost twenty years before he reinvented himself in the early ’50s as a rock and roll artist. His new band featured Keely Smith on vocals and Sam Butera and the Witnesses for instrumentation. He recorded several albums with this band in his “Wildest” series and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He will most likely receive more attention in a future Faux Show.

Sam Butera was playing at the 500 Club in New Orleans, a club owned by Louis Prima’s brother, when Louis Prima asked him to become the band for his new Las Vegas stage show in 1954. The result was magic. The vocals of Keely Smith, and the back-and-forth of Prima’s scat singing with Butera’s saxophone, resulted in a sound never heard before. The magic only lasted a few years {Prima and Smith’s divorce certainly didn’t help the act stay together), but the records produced by this band are all fantastic. Butera kept the Witnesses together for another twenty years, and continued to perform as a musician and actor into the 20th century.

how come Prima’s dog don’t bark when Butera visits?

Thanks for listening (and reading)!

Track List

TrackArtistSong Title
1Rudy WiedoeftSax Serene
2Boots RandolphYakety Sax
3Gerry RaffertyBaker Street
4David BowieYoung Americans
5Tower of PowerSoul Vaccination
6Fela KutiZombie
7Manu DibangoHot Chicken
8Stan Getz (featuring Antonio Carlos Jobim)Desafinado
9Steely DanAja
10Black Country, New RoadInstrumental
11Todd RundgrenZen Archer
12Floating Points featuring Pharoah SandersMovement 4
13John ColtraneNaima
14WhamCareless Whisper
15Haircut One HundredLove Plus One
16Men at WorkWho Can It Be Now?
18Ruth Brown5-10-15 Hours
19Louis PrimaOh, Marie
20Bruce SpringsteenRosalita
21The Rolling StonesRip This Joint
22Sonny RollinsSt. Thomas
23Pink FloydUs and Them
24Roland KirkNow Please Don’t You Cry Beautiful Edith

One thought on “Radio Faux Show Volume 1, Number 17 (June 27, 2021): Saxophones

  1. Beautiful playlist. Great mix of classic sax and rock. I actually have been wondering recently if I have some subconscious connection to the sax. When I think about the music that I am drawn to, it will hit me all of a sudden…..oh yeah, there’s a saxophone. Whether it is Clarence, DMB with the late LaRoi Moore, the once Flecktone now DMB Jeff Coffin, or my favorite saxophonist of all time, Morphine’s Dana Colley. Dana plays the sax in a way that makes you completely forget that there isn’t even a guitar in the band.

    Brother Faux Pick – Morphine “Honey White”


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